Paul Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, is an unstoppable force: a world-renowned composer, writer, DJ and conceptual artist who comfortably hops between different mediums. The 31-year-old's discography -- which includes countless major-label releases, remixes, film scores and studio and live experiments -- reads like an electronic producer's wonderland. Based in New York City, Miller's art-house credentials are equally impressive, with high-profile showings of his work at Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany, and The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. As a writer, Miller has contributed thought-provoking text to The Village Voice, Raygun, Artforum and A Gathering of the Tribes, which he co-published. So why is the extremely busy Subliminal Kid spending Sept. 21 through Oct. 6 at the Atlantic Center for the Arts www.atlantic-centerarts.org in New Smyrna Beach, as part of the facility's Master Artists-in-Residence Program?
Stranded in Sweden after the New York City attacks and armed with his trusty laptop, Spooky talked about his latest project via e-mail.
OW: You are a busy, in-demand international recording artist; why New Smyrna Beach, now?
Paul Miller: Millions and millions and millions of voices in my head -- the frequency is like a really weird cell-phone conversation where a lot of static and fractured voices keep coming into the situation. It's multiplex of the mind or something like that. I love the idea of taking the time to really slow down and spend time with students who are building their own aesthetics. When I was just starting out, all the older artists were so caught up in their own thing that they couldn't be bothered with checking out what other people were doing.
Art can be isolating sometimes, and DJ culture is much more social. You know, people actually have to deal with one another. Art can let you escape away from the impact of your work. ... DJing makes you immerse your self in others -- the other people who make records, the other people who dance, the other people who listen. Slow down, feel the invisible rain of the information age. Sit on a beach and talk with some interesting folks. That's a healthy thing.
What should people expect from your residency? (The free events include a 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, opening reception at ACA; an 11 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, presentation and talk on the film SLAM that also includes poet Saul Williams at the Enzian Theater; a 5 p.m. Oct. 3 talk and presentation at Stetson University's Instructional Media Center, and the 7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 "INsideOUT" final presentation of works-in-progress at ACA's Harris Theater.)
I put together a multimedia course of ideas based loosely around how art has changed over the last century. Basically it starts out with the origins of multimedia and film, and goes into stuff like the early phonograph and the way these devices changed the public imagination. The rest of the time will be spent listening to the students and checking out what they're up to. It's all about exchange ... Ideas are only as strong as the people who think them.
Will you be performing live, DJing?
Yeah, there's no boundaries between art, music and writing to me, and each of these is just one aspect of the other. Writing is music is art is writing, or something like that. I'll be performing "live" -- i.e., DJing -- but with sounds of the whole world in my mind. Once they're there, you don't tell them to go away.
You have a new album coming out?
The "Under the Influence" material is all from the records of folks whose work has been an influence on my aesthetic of "illbient" for a while. Basically, the record is like a big dinner party I'd like to throw and all the people I'd like to invite to come over and jam. Mix culture in a nutshell. Basically, it's all one big dinner party -- those tracks are all just residue of the artists. I like to think of this kind of thing as the origin of the "DJ Spooky" sound with nobody around. Add dashes of art -- there's a downloadable screensaver and some multimedia aspects of the project that'll be up on my www.djspooky.com website in a little bit -- and it's within the frame of what I like to call contemporary "virtual theater." You can have all the fun, but you don't have to be there.
At the end of the day, it's all about synchronicity. That's why the subtitle of the record is "Synchronia" -- i.e., a place where all of the patterns mix. For me there's really not too much of a difference between styles and beats. It's all patterns, and that's what holds the world together these days. Everyone is influenced by everyone else. It's all mutual.
Explain your musical mission.
The whole idea around music is to just have a conversation with other people -- just think about music as one of the few languages everybody understands. If you were to take a time-lapse picture of N.Y.C. for over a century or something, you'd be able to see how much the city has changed in a really short (comparatively speaking) amount of time. It's still changing and will always be changing. My music is a soundtrack to the city.
Do you think that advancements in technology are a good thing? How do they ultimately change the way society operates, thinks, distributes information?
Technology is amazing, and I have to admit, I'm pretty far from being a neo-Luddite, but it's no panacea. The tools are only as good as the people who use them. ... There's always something that comes up that's better than the last thing, and the dynamic evolution of this kind of thing makes being alive in the 21st century so amazing.
There's a great book that just came out on this kind of theme by Steve Alderman called "Sonic Boom" that does a really sharp critique/overview of the whole post-Napster/MP3 scene. On that front, there's some of the best thoughts on the topic of multimedia, etc., from Steve Johnson -- the founder of Feed, an online journal of digital culture -- called "Emergence," where he talks about the city as an "information retrieval device" and compares contemporary urban life to ant hills. Fun stuff, but not for the kids. I think that technology is an extension of human beings, and like Marshall McLuhan, I just try to keep it all "real."
Upcoming releases, projects, etc.?
I'm starting my own label and working with Palm Pictures/Six Degrees (they're the ones who put out the "Under the Influence" record). I'm working on my next album and finishing (finally) my book projects. I think that it'll work out great; it's just a matter of getting more free time. Currently, I'm sitting in a bar in Stockholm, Sweden, listening to old funk records waiting for the airlines to start running again after the World Trade Center suicide attacks. I'm counting one day at a time and the fact that there's still a world out there to enjoy.
What motivates you, keeps you creating?
Ummm, good looking girls....
Do you think like a musician or as a DJ? Or both?
Neither ... I'm just a writer who makes music, a musician who makes art and a DJ who writes.